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Osteoporosis Health Center

Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs With Fractures

But Risk of Thigh Bone Fracture From Taking Bisphosphonates Is Small
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Osteoporosis Drugs and Fractures continued...

Among the other findings:

  • Duration of use affected risk. For every 100 days of bisphosphonate use, the risk of the unusual fracture rose by 30%
  • Risks declined quickly after the drug was stopped. The risk was reduced by 70% per year since the last use of the drug.
  • For one unusual fracture to occur, 2,000 women had to take the bisphosphonate drugs for one year.

Aspenberg reports getting consulting fees and grant support from Eli Lilly and Amgen, which make osteoporosis drugs. He holds stock in AddBIO, a company developing a method for bisphosphonate coating of implants to be inserted into bone. He also holds a patent on the method.

Short-term use of the drug is best, Aspenberg says. "Most should stop after five years," he tells WebMD.  "Only women with very severe osteoporosis should continue. Importantly, the drug should only be taken if there is an indication."

Second Opinion

The new research lends weight to the long-suspected link between osteoporosis drugs and unusual fractures, says Melvin Rosenwasser, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

He agrees that patients need to re-evaluate the use of the osteoporosis drugs after being on them for five years.

"If you have been taking the drug for five years, you should be tested to see if you still need to take anything," he says. ''Our study and others have shown you need to take [the drugs] for more than five years to get into some of the side effects."

In his own research, Rosenwasser had found that after three years of use, patients' bones were getting stronger. However, after five years, it appeared the bone's structural properties were changing. "It doesn't mean broken," he tells WebMD.

The U.S. has a more diverse population than Sweden, he points out. The findings may not reflect what would be found in the U.S.

The new study shows the link between the drugs and the unusual fracture is real, says Joseph Lane, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery-Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.

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